Weird. That’s the first word I wrote in my notebook about Minto in Osaka. It was just weird. We were looking for an eatery close to the train station, and Happy Cow was giving us this as a good option, so off we went for a very peculiar experience.
First of all, it was a slightly decrepit looking place. Mismatched furniture and shabbiness can have a certain chicness sometimes, but here it just looked quite run down. It didn’t really help that it was quite a big space, spread across at least three different rooms, and there was nobody there but us. There was someone working at the bar, so we made our way into their room to try to see the menu. Alas, it was the grumpiest person we encountered in Japan the whole time we were there. I’d found Japanese people disconcertingly polite and attentive, but this guy was sullen and monosyllabic and so we didn’t feel confident asking him for further info to help us fathom the menu.
There’s only one menu available, and it’s there at the bar. Happy Cow lists them as a veggie establishment, but the first few pages of the menu were full of meaty curries, so we were quite confused. There was only one dish that was actually labelled vegan, so we got that and just hoped for the best. We were given a little pager that went off when the food was ready, and we had to go and collect it from the bar. Again, pretty weird.
On the plus side, that one vegan option was very good indeed! I was fully expecting to hate it, based on the weird service and atmosphere, but it was lovely. We got tofu peanut butter masala which had incredible depth of flavour and was spicy without being fiery. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a dish like this on a menu anywhere else, and I’m really keen to recreate it now. We had a few Indian dishes during our travels, and this was the best. The menu had promised paratha, but we got boring old rice instead; further proof that it was not our day.
I was a bit unsettled after a not particularly relaxing experience there, and just wanted to sit somewhere nice – so we took a five minute walk round to The Giving Tree Cafe, which turned out to be a teeny tiny place with lots of daylight and friendly service. Phew! They just had one vegan dessert, which was a chocolate pudding (a nice smooth texture, but quite bland) topped with soy yoghurt (this really brought the flavour!). And the coffee came with two crunchy little cinnamon cookies, which the staff told us were vegan. This whole experience was just the palate cleanser we needed.
The real question is, would it be worth going back to Minto for that curry and risking the weirdness a second time?!
What’s the weirdest, most confusing eatery you’ve ever been to?